Detox Archives - Hader Clinic Queensland

Fears in Recovery

The fears in recovery can be overwhelming for individuals seeking help with addiction.

From the fear of withdrawal symptoms to the fear of relapse, these concerns can hinder the progress of recovery. However, there are effective strategies to overcome these fears and achieve long-term sobriety.

Explore the top 10 fears in recovery and learn about proven ways to beat them.

Top 10 Fears in Recovery:

  1. Fear of withdrawal symptoms: Intense physical and psychological discomfort during detoxification.
  2. Fear of judgment: Stigmatisation or labelling as a “drug addict” by friends, family, or society.
  3. Fear of failure: Concerns about successfully completing the rehabilitation program and maintaining sobriety.
  4. Fear of change: Intimidation towards making significant lifestyle, routine, and social circle adjustments.
  5. Fear of losing control: Anxiety about surrendering control to a treatment program or therapist.
  6. Fear of facing emotions: Frightening and uncomfortable feelings associated with confronting and working through emotional issues.
  7. Fear of the unknown: Anxiety and uncertainty due to unfamiliar environments, therapies, and routines.
  8. Fear of isolation: Apprehension about being away from friends, family, and support networks.
  9. Fear of addressing underlying issues: Overwhelming emotions linked to facing deeper underlying issues like trauma or mental health disorders.
  10. Fear of relapse: Anxiety and uncertainty about the possibility of returning to old habits and facing the consequences.

Ways to Beat the Fears

The good news is that any fears you may experience once you are in recovery are completely normal.

Here are 10 proven coping strategies to help you overcome these fears  and enhance your overall recovery experience:

  • Taking it one day at a time: Focus on the present moment to alleviate anxiety.
  • Connecting with recovered addicts: Find inspiration and perspective through group therapy sessions and support meetings.
  • Communicating your fear: Share fears with counsellors, therapists, and the recovery community to release their power.
  • Reaching out to family and loved ones: Seek open communication and family support to overcome feelings of failure.
  • Taking a leap of faith: Embrace the safe environment provided by trained professionals for psychological recovery.
  • Giving yourself permission to be vulnerable: Allow honesty and vulnerability as part of the healing process.
  • Engaging with the program: Trust the process and professionals to regain a sense of control.
  • Trusting: Believe in the decision to seek help and have faith in the staff’s expertise.
  • Fine-tuning your support system: Maintain connections with support groups, counsellors, sponsors, and mentors for ongoing assistance.
  • Accepting the possibility of relapse: Understand that relapse does not equate to failure and access support to get back on track.

By acknowledging and addressing these fears, individuals in recovery can overcome them and find the support needed to achieve successful recovery.

Hader Clinic Queensland’s residential rehabilitation program offers comprehensive assistance and guidance throughout the recovery journey, providing the tools and support necessary to conquer these fears and thrive in recovery.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Detox

Drug and alcohol detoxification (detox) is the first step towards long-term recovery from addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. It is the term applied to the process of clearing all traces of drugs and/or alcohol from the system in order to leave a recovering addict stable enough to start the next phase of addiction treatment.

If you are planning on starting your recovery journey, it is important you seek professional help. Detoxing on your own can be dangerous and traumatic; however, medical detox – undertaken in a treatment centre, under 24/7 supervision and with assisting medication – will set you on the right path and ensure your recovery isn’t harder than it needs to be.

Step One – Identifying the Addiction

The process of detoxing is different for every person. Decisions on how to best manage the detox process are made based on the user’s substance of choice, the severity of the use and the period of substance abuse.

Step Two – Establishing a Treatment Plan

Every person experiences detox differently, which is why it is important to establish a treatment plan to best suit their individual needs. Any medications prescribed to ease the withdrawal process are dependent on the type of substance dependency and the results of the medical examination preceding detox.

There are four main distinctions when it comes to treatment plans:

  1. Opioid withdrawal – for persons addicted to heroin, morphine and some prescription medications, commonly painkillers
  2. Benzodiazepine withdrawal – for persons addicted to prescription medications such as Valium and Xanax
  3. Stimulant withdrawal – for persons addicted to stimulant drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamines and methamphetamines
  4. Depressant withdrawal – for persons addicted to depressant substances, such as alcohol

While there are some similarities in the detox process for every patient; however, the medical treatments to minimise distressing side effects of withdrawal are determined by the type of substance(s) a patient has become dependent on.

Step Three – Acute Withdrawal

Once a treatment plan is in place, detox begins. The first stage of detox, known as acute withdrawal, is commonly the most physically gruelling. As the last traces of drugs and/or alcohol leave a patient’s system, the body fights to maintain the effect of the substances, resulting in cravings. However, by this stage, the body and brain are usually so depleted of naturally occurring happy chemicals, such as endorphins, adrenaline and dopamine, that it is struggling to function normally. This causes what is known as withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms may include physical symptoms, i.e.:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shakes and shivers
  • Headaches
  • Muscle and bone aches
  • Stomach cramps
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Runny nose
  • Diarrhoea
  • Chills and/or hot flushes
  • Exhaustion
  • Insomnia

It may also include psychological symptoms, i.e.:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability and anger
  • Extreme cravings for drugs and/or alcohol

In extreme cases, persons going through acute withdrawal can experience seizures, hallucinations and psychotic episodes; all of which can spiral into potentially life-threatening situations if a person goes through withdrawal unsupervised. It is important to understand that attempting to detox on your own at home is not safe, smart or realistic.

Step Four – Chronic Withdrawal & Holistic Treatment

The acute stage of the detox process usually takes between 7 and 10 days and is followed by a phase termed ‘chronic withdrawal’. Recovering addicts are no longer in physical danger by the time they reach chronic withdrawal, and the worst of the physical withdrawal symptoms commonly dissipate at this stage. However, the psychological symptoms – particularly cravings, irritability, mood swings and anxiety – are likely to persist for weeks or even months.

If a recovering addict is well-supported and has a solid treatment plan, including residential treatment for 30-90 days, counselling, transitional housing and an aftercare plan, chronic withdrawal can be managed well.

Once the acute stage of detox is over, recovering addicts are usually stable enough to begin their long-term recovery process, which will ideally include intensive psychological counselling to maximise their chances of long-term recovery. Addiction goes far beyond the physical effects of drug and/or alcohol abuse; so there is plenty of work to be done once detox is over.

Photographs of clients have been changed to protect their privacy.

What is Detox?

Detoxing (or detoxification) is the process of your body removing any substances in your system. This is the safest way to deal with withdrawal symptoms once you cease taking drugs or alcohol.

Each experience with drug and alcohol detox will differ depending on the type of drug and how much and how often the drug was used. Medications present in detox assist former drug users by keeping them comfortable during the process of the substance leaving their bodies.

Withdrawal symptoms may take days or even months to pass for most drugs. The length it takes for withdrawals to occur depends on several factors, such as:

  • The type of drug you are addicted to
  • The duration the addiction has lasted
  • How severe your addiction is
  • The method of drug abuse (how you ingest the drug)
  • The amount of the drug you take at one time
  • Family history and your genetic makeup
  • If you have any medical conditions or mental health conditions

Detoxing at home can sometimes end in tragedy. If you try to quit your drug addiction without medical supervision, you may experience seizures or extreme dehydration. There are multiple inpatient and outpatient detox programs that aim to prevent such complications from occurring.

If you have a severe addiction, residential addiction treatment will be the most beneficial to preventing fatal withdrawals. These inpatient programs include support and monitoring 24 hours a day.

The detox program you receive will depend on your individual circumstances, however, the process generally involves these three steps:

  • Evaluation: you will be screened by the medical team for any issues that may be physical or relating to your mental health. Blood tests will be conducted to measure the number of drugs that are in your system so doctors can be aware of the level of medication you will require. Your drug, medical and psychiatric history will also be evaluated so your long-term treatment plan can be created.
  • Stabilisation: you will be stabilised with medical and psychological therapy to prevent any harm from coming to you. You may be prescribed addiction treatment medications to assist you through this process
  • Preparing for entry into treatment: you will be informed about what the process involves and what you should expect.

Despite medical detoxing limiting withdrawal symptoms, there are some symptoms that will be unavoidable, such as nervousness, insomnia, discomfort, mood swings, loss of sleep or difficulty concentrating.

Detoxing is only the first step in treating addiction and is often not enough for a successful recovery. You should also seek to treat the psychological element of addiction by attending counselling, support groups or inpatient rehab programs.

If you’re struggling with detoxing, Hader Clinic Queensland can provide thorough information so you can make well-informed decisions to help you choose the right detox program for you.


What Happens During Detox?

Detoxification – commonly referred to as ‘detox’ – is the first step in addiction treatment for drugs and/or alcohol.

It describes the initial phase of allowing the body to purge all traces of drugs and/or alcohol; a brief but intense period of chemical restructure and recovery that can cause a variety of unpleasant side effects known as ‘withdrawal symptoms’.

Why is Detox necessary?

Detox is an essential part of addiction treatment for two main reasons. Firstly – and somewhat obviously – it removes all traces of drugs and/or alcohol from the user’s system, allowing the body to start the process of physical recovery. Secondly, it is vital in getting the individual ready to begin the psychological recovery process with a clear head. Long-term addiction recovery is as much a psychological process as it is a physical, and detox is the best way to get an individual stabilised mentally before the therapy process begins.

What happens during Detox?

After a sustained period of alcohol and/or drug use, the body and brain become accustomed to a certain level of harmful chemicals, overproduced happy chemicals or an overload of neurotoxins; during detox, these substances gradually leave the system.

Depending on the level of use, this process can take between 7 and 10 days, although it can take longer in extreme cases of poly-drug abuse.

As the body can go into shock during ‘cold turkey’ withdrawal – meaning simply stopping substance use without any assisting medications – detoxing on your own and without professional help can be counterproductive and, in the worst-case scenario, life-threatening.

What is Medical Detox?

When a person checks into a treatment centre, they will begin their recovery by going through a supervised, medically assisted detox.

First, they will undergo a thorough medical assessment, to ensure their treatment plan is perfectly tailored to their individual needs.

Second, they will begin the detox process. This usually takes place in a specialist ward or facility, where patients are monitored around the clock and medical professionals are on standby to deal with any adverse symptoms or medical emergencies they might experience as part of withdrawal.

What are Withdrawal Symptoms?

Withdrawal symptoms are the body’s response to being deprived of the dosage of drugs and/or alcohol it has become used to. There are physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms, which may vary in intensity depending on the preceding levels of substance use and the patient’s natural body chemistry and mental state.

Physical Symptoms of Withdrawal may include:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shakes and shivers
  • Headaches
  • Muscle and bone aches
  • Stomach cramps
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Runny nose
  • Diarrhoea
  • Chills and/or hot flushes
  • Exhaustion
  • Insomnia

Psychological Symptoms of Withdrawal may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability and anger
  • Extreme cravings for drugs and/or alcohol

In particularly severe cases, patients may experience seizures, hallucinations, and states of delirium during their detox process.

Because withdrawal symptoms are unpredictable and can be severe, medical detox includes a variety of medications that will ease the symptoms and help the patient through the rough parts of the process. The appropriate medication and dosage vary dramatically with every case, which is another good reason to get professional help when going through detox.

Read more about Drug and Alcohol Detox here.

What is Addiction?

Addiction is a chronic brain disorder that causes repetitive harmful behaviours and an uncontrollable desire to keep engaging in these behaviours.

Addiction is most commonly associated with alcohol and drugs; however, the same principle applies to less well-publicised dependencies, such as gambling, sex, food, technology and even work addictions.

How does Addiction work?

The path to addiction usually follows four clearly defined stages:

Stage One – Experimentation
Very few people make it through life without ever experimenting with drugs and or alcohol. Teenage curiosity, peer pressure or simply a random opportunity to try something new most often lead to a person’s first experience with drugs. Experimentation does not necessarily lead to full-blown dependency.

Stage Two – Social or Regular Use
There are many casual drug and alcohol users, who only engage in these risky behaviours on weekends, parties or social get-togethers. The danger here is that we often gravitate toward social environments in which substance abuse is encouraged in order to avoid judgement.

Stage Three – Problematic or Risky Use
This stage occurs when the behaviours developed in Stage Two intensify and we lose regard for their consequences. Whether there are physical repercussions (i.e. vomiting, passing out, horrific hangovers), social repercussions (i.e. mistreating loved ones when drunk or high) or personal repercussions (i.e. engaging in dangerous activities, overspending); if they cease to matter, substance use has become problematic. At this stage, use becomes more frequent and no longer requires an ‘occasion’ or even company.

Stage Four – Dependency
At this stage, substance use occurs on a daily basis, often multiple times a day and is no longer within the user’s control. Drugs and/or alcohol are now a requirement to function and feel normal; and withdrawal is becoming increasingly uncomfortable. When a substance dependency occurs, the need to keep using will outweigh all other needs and responsibilities, regardless of personal cost and consequences.

This then continues into a cycle of addiction.

What are the Signs of Addiction?

Addiction changes people fundamentally. Addicts will display behaviours and engage in activities that can seem completely out of character and can seem quite alarming to their loved ones. It is important to recognise these signs for what they are – symptoms of a disease.

Persons experiencing addiction might

  • Isolate themselves from friends and family
  • Become increasingly secretive
  • Become overly defensive when the subject of substance abuse is raised
  • Display extreme emotions
  • Be subject to dramatic mood changes
  • Blame others for their problems
  • Refuse to acknowledge that their behaviour is becoming problematic

On a physical level, persons experiencing addiction might

  • Have trouble sleeping
  • Feel unwell (joint pain, runny nose, persistent cough) most of the time
  • Experience memory loss
  • Experience depression and anxiety at unprecedented levels

What Causes Addiction?

Unfortunately, drugs and/or alcohol and other addictive substances and/or behaviours will leave the user experiencing many pleasurable sensations in the early stages of use. Heavy drug users often describe their addiction as chasing their first high and never managing to recreate it. Continuous substance abuse impacts the brain until the user craves immediate gratification constantly, yet needs more and more of their substance of choice to feel an effect.

Addiction takes hold once the brain is depleted of natural ‘happy chemicals’ (i.e. endorphins, dopamine and adrenaline) and drugs and/or alcohol are the only way to feel good and function on a day to day basis. Quitting becomes very difficult as the withdrawal symptoms intensify and cravings become overwhelming; which is why it is vital to seek professional help for the detoxification and rehabilitation process.

What are the Risks of Addiction?

Addiction has a negative impact on all areas of life.

Health Risks
Substance abuse can irreparably damage a person’s health. Some of the biggest risks are infection with blood-borne viruses (BBV) through upsurges in impulsive, risk-taking behaviour, permanent neurological damage, heart disease, and damage to major organs.

Social Risks
Addiction affects personality changes, which can lead to damaged relationships, break-ups and estrangement from friends and family. Furthermore, addiction increases the risk of isolation and anti-social behaviours, with the potential to lead to loss of employment, or in some circumstances, periods of incarceration.

Economic Risks
Maintaining an addiction is expensive. People dealing with substance abuse disorders are at heightened risk of experiencing bankruptcy and ending up in debt.

Psychological & Emotional Risks
Depression, anxiety and increased stress are all classical side effects of addiction. Those with a history of mental health issues will see an exacerbation of these, leading to further deterioration of mental state, mood, and affect. Destructive behaviours and thoughts that often accompany substance dependence include self-harm and suicidal ideation.

If you or a loved one are showing signs of addiction, contact the Hader Clinic Queensland today.

What Happens After Rehab?

One would think the hard part is over once you have taken the leap to check yourself into rehab, worked through detox and withdrawal, and completed 30-90 days of residential treatment.

However, the recovery process is usually far from finished when a recovering addict is sent out into the real world.

Residential treatment provides around the clock support, which is essential to making it through the early stages of recovery; it keeps all outside influences, temptations, and problems at bay so you can focus on your own well-being without interruptions. Once you leave the residential facility – though support systems are still available to you – you are going to have to navigate your new reality on your own; so, it pays to have an action plan to make re-entry a little easier.

Transitional Housing Program

After completing the 90-day residential rehabilitation treatment program recovering addicts may be eligible to undergo the second phase of residential treatment; the transitional housing program. The transitional housing program is designed to help transition and integrate you back into the “real world” without feeling as though you are being thrown straight back into life.

We see a greater success rate in long term addiction recovery when clients complete the transitional housing program.

Aftercare Program

After completing rehab or the transitional housing program clients are able to undertake our aftercare and relapse prevention program.

The aftercare program is designed to help recovering addicts continue the process of reintegration with their lives outside of rehab, providing ongoing monitoring and support. Clients completing the aftercare and relapse prevention program reduce the risk of relapse compared to going straight back into society following their addiction treatment.

Online Aftercare Program

Alternatively, we offer our residents our online aftercare program, which provides invaluable resources at times of need through the HaderCare mobile application.

The app-based support program consists of addiction rehabilitation information, resources and activities plus weekly meditation videos, and real-time individual counselling sessions via video integration allowing you to continue your recovery when at home.

Be Trigger-Savvy

Getting clean and sober is hard – staying clean and sober is harder. Once you get back home, you can expect your cravings to go through a renewed peak; because you are likely going to be surrounded by triggers.

In order to make it through the first few months in ‘the wild’, you have to be aware of potential triggers and put strategies in place to cope with them as best as you can.

Triggers can include (but are not limited to):

  • Friends you used to drink/use drugs with
  • Places you used to drink/use drugs at
  • Boredom
  • Loneliness
  • Feelings of depression and despair
  • Avoiding triggers entirely is practically impossible; however, as long as you are aware of them, you are going to be able to work around them.

Be Ruthless

Now is not the time to be polite. If old friends show up uninvited and invite you to join them for a few drinks, a little smoke or just a straight-up bender, you are absolutely allowed to slam the door in their faces…if you even open the door. If old friends/acquaintances are not supportive of your recovery, respectful of your sobriety or encouraging in your quest for long-term healing, they have to go.

If you are invited to attend a social event in a part of town that might be triggering – the city, the party district, your old local pub – you are well within your rights to refuse. If a location makes you uncomfortable, you do not have to go. If your friends are offended by this, don’t pick up the phone next time they call. You have enough on your plate without trying to please them.

If your home itself is a trigger location – after all, many addicts use at home – you may need to consider moving. Obviously, not everyone has the luxury of just packing up and moving house, but it might be worthwhile to explore some options, such as staying with parents/friends/siblings for a while or doing a stint of house-sitting in a different part of town. This may seem drastic, but if the sight of your old living room brings on heavy cravings, it might be necessary, even just in the short term.

Go to your Meetings

Once you graduate from residential treatment the best way to keep your recovery momentum is to attend as many support group sessions as you feasibly can. Some recovering addicts attend daily meetings for months and even years in order to stay strong. It is a great way to stay in touch with your peer group, exchange coping strategies for everyday challenges and generally remember that you are not alone in this.

Many rehabilitation programs offer regular individual counselling sessions for as long as you feel you need them, which is a great way to supplement the group meetings and stay on track for long-term recovery. Loneliness and isolation are both powerful triggers that can lead to relapse; so keeping in touch and staying social with the right kind of crowd is one of the best things you can do for yourself.


Now is the time to focus on getting yourself well in every possible way. Re-vamp your diet, schedule daily exercise, explore meditation and mindfulness practise (or continue on with practises you were taught in residential treatment), regularly check in with sober friends and recovery buddies and allow yourself to take pleasure in little things every day.

Note: this doesn’t mean you need to beat yourself up every time you don’t feel like going for a walk, eat a bag of chips or can’t bring yourself to do half an hour of breathing. Self-compassion is just as important as self-discipline when it comes to recovery.

Be Relapse Aware

Around half of all addicts in recovery will experience at least one relapse during their journey to long-term sobriety. While this is not ideal, it also does not spell the end of your recovery, it is simply another setback you have to overcome.

If your relapse is an isolated incident, simply pick up the phone once you’ve sobered up and call your counsellor, sponsor, recovery buddy, your mother, your best friend…anyone who is going to listen to you and offer support to get you through this rough patch. There is no need for shame, you are not the first person to have relapsed and you’re certainly not going to be the last.

Stick With It

Yes, recovery is hard. Yes, recovery can feel like a never-ending process. Yes, recovery can absolutely suck some days. But you need to stick with it. Every day you stay sober is a good day, even if it doesn’t feel great at the time. The fact that you entered rehab is proof of your strength and the fact that you get up every morning now, post-rehab, to face the world as best as you can mean you are just getting stronger. Take it one day at a time. You are doing amazing.

How to Tell Someone You Suffer From Addiction

Admitting to anyone, including yourself, that you are suffering from addiction and need help is likely to release complex emotions including feelings of helplessness, fear, disappointment, and shame.

The prospect of sharing your illness with friends and family can be daunting but if you can work up the courage to reach out for help it will prove to be an essential step to your recovery.

Why should I tell?

Long-term addiction recovery from substance dependency is not easy. You are going to need all the help you can get, including your friends and family who will form part of your support network.

By admitting to your loved ones that you are having difficulty managing or stopping alcohol or taking drugs, you are allowing them to step up and support you as best they can.

It’s a good idea to brace yourself for their initial reaction as they may express anger and disappointment; but once the shock has subsided you will be surprised by their support and willingness to help.

Active addicts

If you are currently struggling with an active addiction – meaning you are using drugs and/or alcohol frequently and are unable to stop – there are many benefits to letting your friends and family know.

They are probably already wondering what is going on with you, no matter how hard you try to conceal your struggle. They might even be somewhat relieved to finally have an explanation for your out-of-character behaviours.

Once you have told your friends and family, you are finally free to ask them for help. Friends and family will often help you find the best addiction treatment program for you.

Recovering addicts

If you are already in recovery and have been to rehab  there might seem little point in letting anyone know you are a former substance abuser. However, disclosure is key to sustained long-term recovery.

Considering the Australian drinking culture, it is statistically impossible that you will be able to stay away from all locations where alcohol is available. At some point, you will find yourself at a social occasion and someone will offer you a drink – unless they know you are a recovering alcoholic. Once you have told people, they can support you by helping you abstain.

The same is true for all other substances. You have to be open about your struggles and your desire to remain clean in order for your friends and family to rally around you and help you minimise the risk of triggers and relapse.

When should I tell them?

Ideally, you will have this conversation shortly after you admit to yourself that you are suffering from addiction. Don’t put it off; you may lose your nerve if you do.

It is up to you how you tell them. You can call a family meeting and tell everyone who needs to know at once or you might prefer telling only one or two of your nearest and dearest at first.

That said, no matter how many of your friends and family are present when you first admit to your struggle with addiction, make sure the timing is at least moderately convenient. Late at night or just as people have to leave the house to go to work is not ideal – this is unlikely to be a ten-minute conversation.

Where should I tell them?

You will need a calm and private space for this conversation.

Ideally, you will be at someone’s home where everyone feels safe and comfortable to express their feelings – because there are likely to be a lot of feelings.

Once you have made your announcement, it is important for you to stay and listen; your friends and family are entitled to say their piece as well. Yes, this will be hard; but you will be surprised how helpful their take on the situation can be as you begin your recovery journey.

How should I tell them?

There is no one right way when it comes to telling friends and family.

It’s not a bad idea to plan ahead and rehearse what you want to say. It might even be helpful to write down the best version you can come up with so that you can refer back to it in case you get emotional or lose track.

No matter the words you choose, the most important thing is to be completely honest.

There is no point in minimising your substance abuse issues, you are doing no one any favours by sugar-coating is or leaving out the parts you are most ashamed of.

This is your chance to change your life. Admitting your struggles with alcohol and/or drugs can be terrifying; however, it is also the first step to freeing yourself from the cycle of addiction.

The Perils of Polydrug Use

In addiction medicine, polydrug use refers to the practice of using more than one substance of addiction at the same time or one after another.

There are many reasons that this can occur – for example, one substance of addiction may be used to enhance another’s effect or a substance can be used to ameliorate the effects of withdrawal or “come down”.

Polydrug use can involve both illicit drugs, for example, heroin; and legal substances, such as alcohol and prescription medication.

As previously stated, people mix drugs for various reasons. There are many ways that drugs are mixed and used.

As well as for both enhancement and oppositional effects, a different drug may be substituted for the person’s drug of choice if it is not available. For example, methadone or fentanyl may be used when heroin is not available.

Different combinations of drugs may be used in the hope of reducing dependence on just one substance of abuse.

Alternatively, a drug may be unknowingly ingested when intoxication or impairment of cognition is present, due to the effects of using the drug of choice.

Depending on whether a substance is legal or not, it can be difficult to assess its effects.

The issue with polydrug use is that it presents even more difficulties in predicting the effects than just one substance. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that 60% of fatal overdoses involved more than one substance of abuse.

Polydrug users can also develop tolerance to more than one substance of abuse, which complexifies the detoxification and withdrawal process.

Here are some common substance polyuse combinations and their side effects.

Combining Stimulants (For example, methamphetamines(ice) with cocaine and/or MDMAs)

Mixing drugs of the same class generally amplify their effects and increase the risk of overdosing.

In the case of mixing stimulants, a life-threatening condition known as “Serotonin Syndrome” can occur, where the levels of serotonin in the body rise. In mild cases, patients can present with:

  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • dilated pupils
  • fever and flushing
  • headache
  • high blood pressure
  • irregular heartbeat
  • muscle rigidity
  • poor coordination
  • profuse sweating
  • rapid breathing
  • restlessness
  • shivering
  • slow or fast pulse
  • jerky movement
  • tremors

Elevated serotonin levels become life-threatening when there is:

  • high fever
  • loss of consciousness
  • seizures
  • rapid swings in blood pressure and pulse.

Combining Depressants (eg opioids, benzodiazepines, alcohol, prescription drugs)

Central nervous system (CNS) depressants act by slowing down the nervous system and depressing breathing rate. Combining depressant medication exacerbates their effects.

The resulting impacts are:

  • breathing difficulties
  • accidents and injuries due to slow reaction times/poor coordination
  • vomiting
  • loss of consciousness
  • coma
  • death

Combining Depressants and Stimulants

When depressants and stimulants are combined, the challenge of metabolizing these markedly different drugs places a lot of stress on the body. This can result in many potentially life-threatening scenarios where vital organs shut down – most commonly heart and kidney failure.

Combining Prescription Medications and Illicit Substances

Prescription medications can interact with other medications both positively and negatively. This is considered by a doctor when prescribing medication to treat certain conditions and illnesses.

Prescription medications are often mixed with illicit substances or used as a substitute for illicit substances. Certain prescription medications carry the risk of dependency, and therefore subsequent abuse.

Examples of prescription drugs/illicit substances that can have negative effects include mixing benzodiazepines and alcohol. This results in a decreased breathing rate and increased risk of overdose.

Prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines, anti-psychotics, anticonvulsants, prescription pain killers and certain anti-depressants can be abused to offset the effects of methamphetamines (ice) and cocaine.

This can lead to dependence upon multiple substances.

The Alcohol Effect

Alcohol acts as a central nervous system depressant. Therefore, combining alcohol with depressants such as opioids, GHB and benzodiazepines increase the depressive effects. This means that an affected person may not be able to complete simple tasks, be at risk of falls and accidents due to poor reaction time, and suffer with breathing difficulties.

Alcohol combined with stimulants is often used to help methamphetamine users “come down”.

It should be noted that the combination of alcohol and cocaine is particularly dangerous. The combination produces the chemical, cocaethylene, which is toxic to humans, causing (and exacerbating) liver tissue damage and seizures.

Detoxification from Multiple Substances

When withdrawing a user from multiple substances, it is essential that a proper detoxification process is undertaken. This allows clinicians to ensure a safe detoxification, an understanding of the status of the user’s disease of addiction and space to allow the user to participate and have ownership of their treatment.

Polydrug detoxification can be complex and depends on the combination of substances that have been abused. As Queensland’s only dedicated detox private hospital, Hader Clinic Private Queensland specialises in addictive medicine and complex detox and withdrawal cases.

Typically, after being thoroughly assessed by our admissions team, detox is initiated by our addiction medical specialists, including our psychiatrist.

The aims of detox are to provide a safe and peaceful environment for our patients and to keep them as comfortable as possible whilst undergoing physical withdrawal.

We provide mental health support, both one on one with our psychiatrists and psychologists, and in a group setting in our psychosocial wellbeing program, which begins to unpack the causes of addiction and starts to engage the behaviours required for long term success.

For more information visit Hader Clinic Queensland Private Hospital or call 1300 856 847


Queensland’s only private rehab centre with ACHS accreditation

We are proud to be the only private drug and alcohol addiction treatment centre in Queensland to be independantly accredited.

How much does private rehab cost?
Use our online calculator to estimate the cost of treatment.
Calculate Cost of Rehab